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U.S. Department of State issues travel alert for Egypt; Friendly Planet Travel suspends Egypt tours

This post has been update here.

I just told you in an earlier post that we hoped the protests in Egypt would subside, but they have continued to escalate. Just moments ago, the U.S. Department of State issued travel alert for Egypt, warning U.S. travelers of the ongoing political and social unrest in Egypt.

As a result, Friendly Planet Travel is temporarily suspending our tours to Egypt until the situation is resolved. Travelers who are scheduled for departures before Feb. 28 (when the alert is scheduled to expire) will be notified by Friendly Planet about rescheduling, selecting another destination, or cancelling arrangements altogether. We will work with every traveler to get refunds.

Below is a message we sent to everyone who booked a tour to Egypt with us. Read on to see how we are handling this situation to ensure the safety of every traveler. I’ll continue to update you here on the blog as the situation unfolds. And if you have more questions or concerns write to me or call our offices at 1-800-555-5765.


Dear Friendly Planet Egypt Travelers,

With the recent political protests and public unrest throughout Egypt, we fully understand that you may have concerns regarding your upcoming tour. We are currently evaluating the best possible option to ensure a safe and enjoyable vacation for you, whether that means running the tour with an amended itinerary, providing an alternative tour to a different region during the same date range, or cancelling the tour and working with you to reschedule/possibly refund.

Traveler’s safety is always our primary concern at Friendly Planet and we will never operate a tour that we feel is unsafe. We know that a lot can change within 24 hours and we are watching the unfolding events closely while in regular contact with our trusted Land Suppliers in Egypt and we plan to make a final decision regarding your upcoming trip early next week. Once we have pursued all options and reached a decision, we will follow up with you accordingly .

If you are reading this e-mail and have already decided that you will not be traveling to Egypt regardless, we certainly respect your decision to cancel but we apologize that we cannot guarantee a full refund at this point, however we will work with all parties involved to insure the lowest possible penalties for such cancellation.

We are hopeful that the situation in Egypt resolves itself in the coming days. If so, and if it is possible to travel to Egypt safely and with confidence, you can continue with your travel plans without interruption. If safe travel is not possible, you will have all the options to cancel and you can count on us to do whatever is necessary to recover as much as possible, if not all, of your tour payments. We are your advocates, and we work for you. Please rest assured that we have your well being at heart.

We will be following the new stories all weekend, as we are sure many of you will do, and will have a better overall picture of the implications by Wednesday of next week.

As soon as further information becomes available and a final decision is made, we will e-mail you with the news.

Best Regards,

Peggy M. Goldman
President
pmgoldman@friendlyplanet.com

Is it safe to travel to Egypt?

This post has been updated here

Political situations like the one unfolding in Egypt remind me that if you want to explore and experience the world, you need to be prepared for the unexpected. Note that I didn’t say expect the unexpected. In almost every case, the risk is minimal when traveling. However, be prepared for any eventuality because it can happen anywhere. We just saw it unfold in our own country in Arizona.

Tens of thousands of protesters are filling the streets of Cairo demonstrating that they want current President Hosni Mubarak to step down from power. When Friendly Planet Travel got wind of this, we immediately contacted our two tour groups that are in Egypt right now.

One group is in Aswan, where no protests are taking place. That tour will continue as scheduled. The second group arrived in Cairo yesterday. They are currently in the Ramses Hilton hotel, which is on the east bank of the Nile River, where they have a clear view of the unfolding protests.

Every Friendly Planet Traveler in Egypt is safe. We have contacted every traveler’s emergency contact to make them aware of this. In fact, our group in Cairo was able to tour the Pyramids and Sphinx this morning as scheduled. Egypt’s tourist police safely escorted our travelers to and from the hotel before the protests heated up.

Right now the situation for our travelers is under control, with some enjoying the sites along the Nile River on a week long cruise and others about to fly to Luxor to begin a cruise on the Nile on Saturday morning. We hope that in the next hours and few days, the situation will improve and the demonstrations will stop. Friendly Planet Travel has experience when these things happen. They’re rare, but they do happen, and when they do, we know what needs to be done to take care of our travelers.

We’re monitoring the situation closely and have a Friendly Planet Travel representative with our travelers at all times. Every two hours we receive an update on the situation from our representatives in Cairo. All hands are on deck at Friendly Planet to make sure our travelers stay safe and continue to see the beauty of Egypt.

I will continue to keep you updated on the political situation in Egypt on the blog. And if you have any questions or concerns you can write to me or call our offices at 1-800-555-5765.

Ecuador still under a state of emergency, Friendly Planet issues refunds for cancelled departure dates

There is more news coming out of Ecuador today. Overnight the protests in Ecuador subsided, but USA Today is reporting that the political situation still remains unstable and the country will remain under a week long state of emergency.

We cancelled our Thursday, Sept. 30 departure to Ecuador from Miami. The travelers effected will have their payments fully refunded. Of course they were disappointed at this news, but understood we would never send travelers into harm’s way.

As for our nine Friendly Planet travelers were in Guayaquil, Ecuador last night, they were not able to depart for Quito to come back to the United States yesterday. We were in contact with the U.S. Department of State who told us that our travelers should remain at the airport and not go to a hotel.

Friendly Planet’s Galapagos representative was with them at the airport the entire night, and I’m happy to report that the flight finally returned to the U.S. today. Everyone is safe, happy to be home, and glad they had the chance to see the Galapagos before the police strike.

As of this writing, we have reinstated our Oct. 3 departure to the Galapagos, as the situation in Ecuador has returned to its peaceful norm. While a state of emergency officially exists, the situation is calm, and the government is fully in control. The strike is over, and Ecuador is once again open for business as usual.

I will continue to update you with more news on the blog as I receive it. And as always, write to me or call 1-800-555-5765 if you have any other concerns.

Protests in Ecuador shut down airports: What Friendly Planet Travelers should know

You might have heard about the protests that erupted in Ecuador today. Here’s what’s been reported by The Associated Press. Police officers are protesting a new law that was passed by Congress on Wednesday that cuts their benefits.

These protests quickly grew throughout the country to Quito, Guayaquil, and other cities. Airports are shut down, highways are blocked, and a state of emergency has been declared for the country.

Friendly Planet Travel has travelers in Miami’s airport who were trying to fly to Quito today. We also have travelers in the Guayaquil airport trying to fly back right now.

At this moment Friendly Planet Travel is all hands on deck. We will be working around the clock with the airlines and our representatives on the ground in Ecuador to make sure every one of our passengers is accounted for and is being taken care of.

We’ve been in the travel business for over 30 years and have experience dealing with these types of situations. Recently, you saw how we reported on the political protests in Thailand. And in one of my first posts about the Thailand protests, I explained what measures Friendly Planet Travel takes to ensure the safety of our travelers. I encourage you flip back to the post to see what we do.

Keep your eyes peeled to the blog. I will continue to keep you updated as I get more news on the protests and information from our reps in Ecuador. If you’re really concerned and don’t want to wait until my next blog post, write to me or call 1-800-555-5765.

US lifts travel warning on Thailand

There is more good news coming out of Thailand. The U.S. Department of State lifted its travel warning on Thailand, citing that safety has improved. In addition, my representatives on the ground in Bangkok told me that almost all evidence of the violent demonstrations have been cleaned up and repaired.

In fact, the people of Thailand have undertaken a mission to restore the tourism infrastructure that existed before the political demonstrations. They’re eager to welcome back tourists. Its islands, cities, ancient ruins, and exotic architecture make it one of the best places on the planet to visit.

Friendly Planet has a lot of faith in the Thai people to once again make their country as inviting as it was just three short months ago. I can’t make an official announcement today, but I can tell you that we are planning three new tours to Thailand. The moment they become available, I will post the details here and on our Facebook page. Keep your eyes peeled.

Putting violence behind them, Thailand moves forward

Here’s the most recent report from my representatives in Thailand. I was told that the situation in Bangkok has calmed down substantially and life is pretty much back normal. Our Thai representatives have reopened their main office and everyone is back to work as usual.

During the worst of the violence, our office had to close due to its close proximity to the demonstrations and the staff worked out of satellite offices in other locations around the city. Everyone is now back to work and our staff is safe and well.

A few days ago, thousands of volunteers turned up at the demonstration sites around the city and cleaned up the streets to remove all evidence of the protests. My representatives describe an overwhelming sense of relief in that the Thai people appear ready to put these violent demonstrations behind them and move on with their lives.

People from all walks of life participated in the clean up, and judging from the comments of the participants, the people have no intention of allowing a repeat of the past few months. Everyone wants peace.

There are no restrictions or curfews imposed at the airports in Thailand, and all flights are operating. But as usual, all passengers must be in possession of their travel documents to access the airport if curfew hours are put into place by The Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situation.

We have great faith in Thailand as a destination, and despite the events of the past few months, we are working hard on new programs to Thailand. As soon as these programs are finalized with dates and prices, we will post the new tours and invite our travelers to resume travel to Thailand.

There is hardly a more wonderful destination in the world, and with peace restored, we believe the rush to visit will resume as never before. Stay tuned for details of specials once the new tours are ready. Bookmark the Thailand tag on our blog to stay up to date on the latest information.

Thailand protests cooling down

This post has been updated here.

This just in from my representatives in Thailand. The political situation in Bangkok seems to be improving at this moment. The number of protesters has reduced substantially, and there have been no threats of violence for several days.

Even more promising is the fact that the negotiations between the government and the protesters appear to be progressing. All roads in Bangkok, except where the protesters are stationed, are open. Most travel warnings have been downgraded or lifted.

The atmosphere is calm elsewhere in Thailand. I’m confident we’ll be resuming travel to Thailand soon. I sincerely hope this situation will be resolved peacefully and that life will return to normal in Bangkok.

Thailand protests turn violent, four Friendly Planet departure dates canceled

This post has been updated here.

Until a few hours ago, I honestly thought the situation in Bangkok would be resolved peacefully, with the calling of a new election. However, I just spoke with our representatives in Thailand and found out the protests have turned violent. As a result, we’ve decided for the safety of our travelers to cancel the following departures to Thailand.

There have been a number of explosions on Silom Road, including inside the Saladaeng Skytrain station, in Bangkok at 20.30 hours Bangkok time this evening. Several people were injured including three foreigners and one Thai person has been reported dead. The situation is now very tense. Hundreds of Bangkok residents confronted the protesters who have occupied Rajadamri Road in central Bangkok for the last two days.

If one of these departure dates is yours, we are contacting you right now to give you all of your options and make sure you understand all the details.

All Friendly Planet passengers in Bangkok are being contacted right now and advised to stay inside their hotels until tomorrow morning. We are strongly advising against any movement in Bangkok and we will not be moving passengers from any hotels this evening.

We are continuing to monitor the situation around the clock and will keep all passengers affected through direct e-mails and phone calls. We’ll also continue to post updates on the blog.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Thailand in this difficult time. I hope this emergency situation will pass quickly, and calmness will be restored to this beautiful country.

Thailand protests spark travel alert from US: What Friendly Planet travelers need to know

This post has been updated here.

We have been posting regular updates on the blog about the political situation in Thailand, keeping you informed on what has been taking place. The situation changed over the weekend, and I wanted you to know what you should do and how we are handling it.

The safety of our travelers is one of our prime concerns, so we reacted immediately to the situation. Here is the e-mail we sent to all of our travelers who have booked a tour to Thailand. It explains what has happened and what we are doing to accommodate each traveler.

If, after reading it, you have any questions please feel free to contact me directly or post a question here on the blog.

Dear Friendly Planet Thailand Travelers,

Like us, you have no doubt been following the unfolding drama in Bangkok. We have posted regular updates about the situation on our blog, and until this past weekend, the situation was peaceful despite the growing numbers of protesters. Unfortunately, as we now know, violence erupted during the weekend causing some deaths and injuries. This is truly not in character with the Thai people, who have a history of expressing their dissatisfaction with their government through marches and demonstrations but not violence.

These are the facts as we know them at this moment. According to our representatives on the ground in Bangkok, the outbreaks of violence have occurred in a small part of the city and did not spread to other areas. While the protesters have not yet dispersed, the city appears to be calm, although many people are shocked and saddened that such hostile acts could occur in their midst. Both sides of the dispute are now in talks to try and resolve the impasse, and we are hopeful that a solution will now be found so that no further violence will occur.

This coming week, Thailand will celebrate a national holiday and many people are away. The streets are relatively quiet, and all tourist sites, hotels, restaurants, shops and businesses are all open as usual. The US Department of State has issued a travel alert about the situation. http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/pa/pa_1998.html. While the alert describes the situation, it does not ask travelers to refrain from visiting Thailand. In fact, the alert states that Thailand is usually a very safe tourist destination and only asks that visitors take extra precautions to avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place. Please follow the link to read the entire text of the alert.

Under the circumstances, we want to make sure that you are comfortable in knowing that all options are available to you, from going forward with your plans to canceling your trip without penalty. Please consider the following options for travel to Thailand between April 12 and April 23:

  • You may proceed with your trip as planned. If, when you arrive in Bangkok, the situation has not stabilized, our representatives will offer a revised program outside of Bangkok. Details of this alternate program will be made available upon arrival.
  • You may switch to another date of the same trip. No change fees will apply should you select another departure. However, the tour price in effect for the new dates will apply. That is, if your tour price is presently $1500 and the new date price is $1800, your balance due will be $300. If your new date price is $1300, you will receive a refund of $200.
  • You may cancel your Thailand tour and apply your tour payments to a different Friendly Planet tour. Again, the tour price of the new tour will apply.
  • You may cancel your tour without any cancellation penalties whatsoever, even if tickets have already been issued.


For departures after April 23, we do not as yet have a ruling by the airline or hotels regarding penalties. It is believed that the situation will be calm by then, and no further cancellations will be necessary. However, if this is not the case and the situation remains volatile, we believe our suppliers will extend the grace period and waive penalties for departures beyond April 23.

Please notify us without delay about your wishes. You may call us (800-555-5765) or send us a message by email at (reservations@friendlyplanet.com)

Rest assured that your well being and safety is our primary concern. We are watching the situation carefully, and we will do everything possible to facilitate a proper and positive outcome for all our travelers. If you have questions or need further clarification or information, contact us so we can help.


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About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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